'The Sing-Off': 10 Things to Expect

THR notes the new themes, twists and titles on NBC’s revived a cappella show.
Ben Folds, Jewel and Shawn Stockman on "The Sing-Off"

The Sing-Off may have been off the air for nearly two years, but the a cappella competition is returning to NBC on Dec. 9, complete with a slew of changes made to hit a few new high notes.

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"This is the oldest form of music, just to stand and sing like that," said judge Ben Folds at a press conference earlier this year. "It's actually the coolest form of music you can imagine. It requires no stunts, it doesn't require a track behind you. You just to have talent and sing, and it's people working together."

The Hollywood Reporter highlights 10 new themes, twists and titles added to NBC’s revived a cappella show:

1. Mark Burnett is executive producer. The man behind everything from CBS’ Survivor to History’s The Bible took on the a cappella show for its fourth outing. Lachey noted during a conference call that Burnett worked to inject a new energy into The Sing-Off; we see that some of that is sourced from his other NBC singing show, The Voice.

2. Jewel joins as judge. The singer-songwriter, who joins Folds and Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman as a judge, is no stranger to reality singing competitions, as she has previously held posts as co-host and judge alongside Kara DioGuardi on Bravo's short-lived Platinum Hit songwriting series, and was a co-host for a season of USA Network/NBC's Nashville Star. She has also stopped into American Idol and The Voice as a guest mentor. “What made me a fan of the show before I came here is that there is a high level of artistry, and you're watching something that a lot of people don't know about,” she said of judging the genre. “You don't understand what it does, and how big it is in the youth movement and how many people are doing this on campuses all across the world.”

3. All seven episodes air within a two-week span. After attempting a weekly format in 2011, the show has reverted to its original holiday strip schedule. The season may be relatively short, but the groups’ introductions -- and eliminations – are quicker for the audience to digest. “Who knows what the future is? It could be a regular season in '14, '15,” said Burnett of the change at the press event. “But this does feel to me, with my experience, a perfect holiday’s condensed format. I think in general, the country is in that kind of loving mood.”

4. Holiday songs will likely grace the finale. Lachey teased that Christmas-themed arrangements would fit well into the season finale – an element sorely missed during season three. A cappella has always been a perfect holiday genre; Boyz II Men’s “Silent Night” and ‘NSYNC’s “O Holy Night” are just a few standouts. Plus, judge Jewel also has her second Christmas album Let It Snow slated for release this season, and seeing as how Burnett lets The Voice judges debut their new material on the show’s stage, we’re expecting a carol or two before a champion is crowned.

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5. A new genre is represented. Though The Sing-Off has previously featured groups who excel in doo-wop, barbershop, pop, Latin and electronic, among others, the panel announced earlier this year that for the first time, the show will include a country group in the competition.

6. Celebrities step in as mentors. “One of the things that was changed per Mark’s request was more interaction from both myself and the judges with the groups,” Lachey said. “You’ll see, as the season progresses, all of us taking a turn and mentoring, trying to give some guidance to the groups as they go through this journey.”

7. One night’s music comes from the movies. The Sing-Off has challenged groups to perform recent hits, guilty pleasures, mash-ups of two opposite tracks and medleys of songs by a single artist. For the first time, an evening’s theme will ask groups to debut arrangements of movie theme songs. Of course, we expect Disney tracks or Dirty Dancing’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” but we’re hoping someone dares to attempt to sing through the Star Wars score.

8.  Each episode has Pitch Perfect-inspired eliminations. Inspired by the 2012 film’s battle scene (and probably The Voice’s battle rounds), eliminations will be determined via the Ultimate Sing-Off, a sudden-death comparison between each evening’s bottom two groups. They must perform the same song, and have only about 15 minutes to figure out their vocal strategies. “It gives them a chance at redemption there in the final hour, when everything is on the line,” said Stockman at the press event. Lachey later added, “Some of the best performances you’ll see in the season come during that Ultimate Sing-Off.”

9. Jewel, Stockman, Folds and Lachey will sing. Lachey also said that one of his favorite parts of the show has been performing with the groups – especially since each of the judges comes from different genres – and looks forward to taking the stage with some of the contestants later on in the season.

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10. Pentatonix returns to the stage. Lachey mentioned that the winning electro-infused group from season three – who has gone on to crack the top 10 of Billboard’s album charts and win one of the first-ever YouTube Music Awards – will be back on The Sing-Off for the two-hour finale on Dec. 23.

Season four of The Sing-Off begins with a two-hour premiere on Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

What do you think of the changes that have come with the return of The Sing-Off? Sound off in the comments below.

Email: ashley.lee@thr.com
Twitter: @cashleelee